Jerry Goldstein

2006 James B. Macelwane Medal Winner

Southwest Research Institute

Jerry Goldstein received the James B. Macelwane Medal at the AGU Fall Meeting honors ceremony, which was held on 13 December 2006 in San Francisco, Calif. The medal is given for significant contributions to the geophysical sciences by an outstanding young scientist.


Jerry Goldstein is one of the most exciting young researchers in space physics today, and his work has significantly advanced understanding of the Earth’s magnetosphere. In particular, Jerry is widely recognized as the leading authority on the structure and dynamics of the Earth’s plasmasphere, the region of cold plasma of ionospheric origin that is trapped in the inner portion of the magnetosphere.

The foundation for his innovative work on the plasmasphere began at Dartmouth College (Hanover, N.H.), where, under the guidance of Mary Hudson, he performed his thesis research on global oscillations of the geomagnetic field driven by sudden increases in the dynamic pressure of the solar wind. This research provided important observational constraints on the mechanisms by which cold ionospheric plasma fills magnetospheric flux tubes, ultimately forming the plasmasphere.

After Dartmouth, Jerry began a postdoc at Rice University (Houston, Tex.) just as the IMAGE spacecraft was beginning to return the first-ever global images of the inner magnetosphere, including extreme ultraviolet images of the helium component of the plasmasphere. Among the several new discoveries made possible by global imaging was the existence of a distinct plasmaspheric ‘shoulder’ that forms in the early morning sector during magnetic storms and then corotates with the Earth. Jerry, working with Dick Wolf and others at Rice, used the Rice Magnetospheric Specification Model to demonstrate how such shoulders form in response to northward turnings of the interplanetary magnetic field. Until this result was obtained, the plasmapause was generally thought to lie too far inside the magnetosphere to be affected so directly by solar wind conditions.

In 2002, Jerry moved from Rice to the Southwest Research Institute, in San Antonio, Tex., where he is now a principal scientist in the Space Science and Engineering Division. Since that time he has published 37 definitive papers on various aspects of plasmaspheric structure and dynamics and on the interaction between the plasmasphere and other regions. Especially noteworthy is his discovery of the relationship between fast flowing plasma streams in the subauroral ionosphere and the formation and evolution of plasmaspheric drainage plumes during geomagnetic storms. His collaborations with John Foster (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Dan Baker (University of Colorado) led to the discoveries of the effect of storm-time plume formation on ionospheric total electron content and of the spatial relationship between the outer radiation belt electrons and the plasmapause, respectively. These latter two accomplishments have important implications for our effort to predict space weather and to mitigate its effects on our communications and navigation systems.

Jerry’s talents and contributions are well appreciated by his colleagues, and he is a frequently invited speaker at national and international meetings. He is one of the most active and influential participants in the NSF-Geospace Environment Modeling program, which aims to create linked, physics-based models to describe and predict the dynamic space environment, from the Sun to the atmosphere. He is generous with his time, insightful in his contributions, and unflaggingly curious about how all the pieces of the solar-terrestrial puzzle fit together. Jerry possesses a remarkable facility in data analysis and modeling and has an uncanny ability to absorb and synthesize disparate concepts and observations into compelling insights that result in scientific breakthroughs. These qualities, along with his infectious enthusiasm, make him a scientific leader in our field today, with great promise for tomorrow.

—JAMES L. BURCH, Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, Tex.


I thank Jim Burch for his very generous citation, and I extend gratitude to my nominating committee (Michelle Thomsen, Dick Wolf, Mary Hudson, Pat Reiff, and Bill Sandel) and to AGU for generously endorsing my nomination.

I am honored, touched, and thrilled to receive the James B. Macelwane Medal. It seems strange to be singled out for recognition, given that any achievements of mine would never have been possible without the many teachers, mentors, and friends who have helped me along every step of the way. As a student, I was very fortunate to work under the guidance of researchers who are both brilliant and kind: first, my undergraduate advisor, Peter Lesser, at Brooklyn College (New York), and then my Ph.D. advisor, Mary Hudson, at Dartmouth College (Hanover, N.H.). As a postdoc it was my privilege to be hired by Pat Reiff and Tom Hill to work with the extraordinary group at Rice University (Houston, Tex.).

My good fortune continues to this day: collaborating with Southwest Research Institute colleagues (including Jim Burch, Dave McComas, Bill Lewis, and Phil Valek) and many, many others in the community (Maria Spasojevic, Pontus Brandt, Michelle Thomsen, Dennis Gallagher, Stephen Mende, John Foster, Dan Baker,Stephen Fuselier, Richard Denton, Mike Liemohn, Bob Spiro, and Joe Perez, to name just a few) has demonstrated to me the essential contribution of peers to an enduring and fulfilling career in science.

I am deeply grateful to the many outstanding members of our community who have been exceptionally generous with their time, their data, and their knowledge. As a younger scientist I am indebted to the real trailblazers of our field, having relied heavily upon decades of research by pioneers such as Don Carpenter and Dick Wolf, and having taken advantage of the new data and new mission opportunities provided by innovators such as Bill Sandel and Jim Burch. I do not feel as though I have discovered anything new as much as benefited from the wisdom and accomplishments of these far more experienced and talented people.

One of the things I enjoy most about our community is that we value more than anything else the quality of ideas. In science, the message supersedes the messenger, and we all have equal voices and equal opportunities. This attitude has fostered in our field a culture of openness and acceptance that is to me quite precious, on both a professional and personal level. After many years of working side by side with so many excellent scientists, conferences feel not as much like professional occasions as they do family reunions. I have had the rare opportunity to travel all over the world to meet new colleagues and make new friends. I have learned just how much our community values honesty, integrity, humor, and partnership in the search for truth. Indeed I am grateful to be recognized and accepted by such a distinguished group. Thank you very much indeed for this great honor.

—JERRY GOLDSTEIN, Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, Tex.